Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater
31.01.2005 - 05.02.2005
The five-day, four-night safari consisted of 1 day at Lake Manyara, 3 days in Serengeti National Park and 1 day in the Ngorongoro crater. The trip also included a visit to a Maasai boma village and a visit to Olduvai gorge, though we had to pay separately for those items. Saw 4 of the big 5 (missed the leopard, but saw lion, buffalo, elephant and rhino), and additionally saw cheetah, hippo, wildebeests, zebra, giraffe, impala and many others.
First day camped at the Panorama campsite outside of Mto Wa Mbu. Very nice campsite. The tents are already set up for you and the showers have hot water. Second and third days camped at the Seronera campsite (specifically the Dik Dik campsite) in the Serengeti. Much rougher than the Panorama campsite – no showers of any kind and only a squat toilet to use. The final day we camped at Simba campsite overlooking the Ngorongoro Crater. Not as plush as the Panorama campsite, but it does have hot showers and the view is amazing.
I was taken on the safari with Comfort Holidays based in Arusha (http://www.comfortsafaris.com/ ). That’s not who I booked with, but that’s who ended up taking me. I booked with Kilimanjaro Crown Bird Safaris in Arusha. The next day, Comfort Holidays showed up and said I was going with them. Of the 5 people in the car, only two of the people had actually booked with Comfort Holidays, and they had done that prior to leaving for Tanzania. The other 3 paying customers had all booked with another company. After hearing a number of horror stories about people booking group safaris and then not getting to go when the others in the group magically disappeared, I was just happy that I was getting to go on a Safari at all.
The guide and car provided by Comfort Holidays met my expectations. The Toyota Land Cruiser was in good working condition and comfortable (though a bit crowded when all 7 people (5 guests, guide and cook) were in the car). The guide was knowledgeable and did an excellent job meeting the desires of the group for a good, first timer safari. He did get a little side tracked one day trying to find a leopard for us to see, but otherwise I have no complaints.
Food was good and well prepared. The last day we started to run out of some things (powdered milk, tea bags, etc.), which makes me think they could do a better job in supply.
The tents were a little old and took a long time to set up, even with the guest pitching in. They were comfortable enough.
All told my safari (booked in Arusha the day before departure) cost me $US 478, including guide, car, cook, three meals a day, park fees, campsites, tents, sleeping bags and mats, Maasai village visit, Olduvai Gorge fee and tips. The couple who booked from home paid about $50 more than I did booking in Arusha.
As it was a group safari, I didn’t know the people I was with. They were nice, some better than others. Luckily we all had similar desires, most of us being first timers (one of the group had been to the Serengeti many years ago), so a wide variety of animals was called for. I could see problems developing, though, if someone in the group had very specific wants (like bird watching) and the others didn’t.
Favorite animal I saw – the Cheetah. I didn’t get to see one run, but they look fast even standing still, like a spring waiting to uncoil.
5 days was just the right amount of time for a first time safari, I think. 3 days would have been a little short and would have been rushed. At 5 days I was ready to get out of the car. There is a lot of driving involved in a game drive – a lot more driving than game viewing, in fact, especially if you are switching parks.
Definitely a great experience, and not as expensive as you would think. Highly recommended!
Hotels in Arusha:
Novotel Mount Meru for $85 a night (single). Overpriced for what you got. I basically stayed there because that’s where the bus dropped me off and it was raining, so I didn’t feel like going out in the rain.
L’Oasis for $45 a night (single). Very nice. Just across the road and through a couple streets from the Novotel Mount Meru. L’Oasis provides a clean and very atmospheric bungalows in a quiet setting. It’s run by a couple of Brit ex-pats. They are also renovating a backpacker hostel across the street, which I think they said they would charge $15 a night for.
Williams Inn. This was recommended by my guide book, and the place I probably would have stayed had it not rained when I arrived at the Novotel. However, one of the group in my safari stayed here and did not like it at all. A woman was screaming all night long about people trying to kill her, and doors were constantly opening and closing and discussions about prices for sex acts could be heard all night long. They were booked to stay 2 days, and only stayed one to find a new place.